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Explained | Why the much-awaited Rajasthan cabinet expansion has left CM Ashok Gehlot in a quandary

There are nine vacancies in the cabinet, which can have a maximum of 30 members. Of the nine, three were created when Pilot supporters were sacked last year for the rebellion. Gehlot has to accommodate BSP turncoats and independents as well

June 17, 2021 / 02:18 PM IST
Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot

Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot

Last year’s political crisis in the Rajasthan government, when former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot had declared open rebellion, has seemingly resurfaced with the rebel camp legislators expressing displeasure over the delay in resolving issues by the Congress high command.

On June 16, Pilot returned to Jaipur from his weekend trip to Delhi that reportedly saw behind-the-scenes discussions over the Rajasthan cabinet reshuffle.

While Pilot has been seeking representation in the government and the party for his supporters, what has added to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s miseries is the demand for their pound of flesh by six former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislators who had joined the Congress and saved his government.

Accommodating Sachin Pilot camp MLAs

On July 2 last year, Pilot, then the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, had declared open rebellion against the Gehlot government. Accompanied by 18 MLAs, he left Jaipur to camp at a secret location in Haryana, threatening the stability of the Gehlot government.

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READ: Rajasthan: Political unease in Pilot camp; questions raised over delay in action a year after rebellion against Gehlot

The rebellion was, however, contained after Congress set up a committee to resolve the crisis, which has re-surfaced nearly a year later with even Sachin Pilot expressing displeasure over the lack of action. He was promised a better representation in the government and the Rajasthan party unit.

The much-awaited cabinet reshuffle was a solution. There are nine vacancies in the cabinet that can have a maximum of 30 members. Of the nine, three were created when Pilot supporters were sacked last year for the rebellion.

Pilot now wants more than three berths for his supporting MLAs’ in the cabinet, sources said.

He has been offered three ministerial posts in addition to a promise of proper representation in the corporation and boards, sources said after his Delhi trip. But Pilot is reportedly asking for five to six ministries.

Also, read : Congress Leadership Crisis | Internal rebellion is an intermittent problem

Of Independents and BSP turncoats

Gehlot, said a Congress leader, must look beyond the Pilot camp.  He has to accommodate ten independents and six turncoats from the BSP who saved his government in the time of crisis last year, the leader said.

The six turncoat MLAs went into a huddle on June 14 and expressed their unhappiness over the political impasse due to delayed expansion in the Ashok Gehlot cabinet and political appointments.

They asserted that the Gehlot government could not have lasted had they not supported it during the Pilot-led rebellion.

Also, read: Rajasthan: Congress MLA close to Sachin Pilot sends his resignation to assembly speaker

The MLAs are expecting a berth or two in the Gehlot cabinet, which has nine vacancies, or representations in the party unit.

Four of these legislators - Lakhan Singh, Rajendra Gudha, Jogender Awana and Sandeep Yadav - came out in the open during the press conference on July 14 expressing their 'hopes' from the expansion.

"Its high time and cabinet expansion should take place as it would improve the efficiency of the government. The government should not forget that they were saved because we six MLAs and as well as independent MLAs merged our legislative party with the Congress and the independents", Gudha told reporters.

Also, read : Explained | Jitin Prasada’s defection: What it means for Congress, BJP ahead of Uttar Pradesh assembly polls

Sources say there are 35 aspirants for these nine berths, leaving Gehlot in a real quandary, which is also causing the delay.

The fresh crisis in Rajasthan comes close on the heels of Jitin Prasada deserting the Congress to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in the backdrop of a three-member panel set up by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi trying to resolve the rebellion against Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 11 years of reporting experience. Based in New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.

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